It is difficult to write about the history of race in modern Europe without traversing the horrifying terrain of genocide and eventually hitting the epistemological wall of the Holocaust. Do all discussions of race lead to genocide? Can racialist thinking promote other outcomes? Joshua Goode's important new book tackles these and other questions.
Impurity of Blood traces the development of racial theories in Spain from 1875-1930 and the rise of anthropology in promoting these racial theories during this tumultuous period spanning the Restoration to the eve of the Second Republic. Setting Spanish racial theories within the European-wide discussions of race at the end of the nineteenth century, Goode argues that Spanish anthropologists borrowed from French, German, and Italian racial theorists, and then transformed those ideas into something new to suit Spanish political, social, and historical conditions. That is, Spanish anthropologists, especially, used the concept of "racial fusion" (as opposed to racial purity) as an analytical category to figure out why Spain had taken a historical wrong turn, i.e., why it had lost its empire, why it faced threats from regionalism and anarchism, and why it was industrially backward. According to these theorists, Spaniards were unique among the European powers because their racial makeup was a fusion of indigenous Spanish, North African, and Jewish races. Spanish racial theorists were then able to apply the concept of racial fusion to solve Spain's problems, and the malleability of the concept enabled them to do so from any part of the political spectrum. [End Page 1248]
Once Goode maps out how the discussion of race in Europe changed over the nineteenth century (31), he then demonstrates how Spanish racial scientists in the developing discipline of anthropology began to debate "how the Spanish race came together." According to Goode, "This focus on mechanism allowed different political thinkers to identify a wide range of culprits behind Spanish disunity. Fusion in the end was the constant that tied all interpretation together" (37). Embedded in this debate over racial fusion were conflicting debates in France over how races originated: Paul Broca's monogenism, "which posited an original race from which all subsequent races had emerged," and Arthur de Gobineau's polygenism, "which argued that a variety of 'pure' races had existed during the early period of human life." (41) These debates colored all discussions of race in Spain and influenced how "European ideas about origins and racial types" meshed with Spaniards' conceptions of "their own particular national [and political] context" (41-42).
In addition to tracing the diffusion of Spanish anthropological ideas of race in social policies, Ch. 4 succeeds in challenging Spanish historiography. Goode revisits "regenerationism," the term associated with the so-called "Generation of 1898," intellectuals who tried to discover why Spain had declined precipitously from its imperial heights of the sixteenth century and who proposed programs to reform Spain. Goode clarifies why the generational term is too limited. Instead, he posits that "anthropological language and ideas in regenerationist writing borrowed from the anthropological debates of the period and demonstrated a far greater penetration of scientific . . ideas into Spanish intellectual debates" (81).
The final chapter in Part I discusses how anthropology tried to confront the threat of national splintering among the Catalans and Basques, by figuring out how best to promote national unity through the scientific understanding of regional ethnicities: In other words, how could one account for both racial fusion and separate ethnicities within a unified Spain? I would have liked to have seen more discussion of Catalan and Basque anthropologists. Did their anthropological studies differ from "Spanish" anthropologists? Did they study race in such a way as to promote regional or ethnic superiority?
Part II of this book convincingly shows how anthropological ideas about race permeated many areas of Spanish institutional life, and how the malleability of racial language enabled thinkers across the political spectrum to justify whatever programs they wished to justify. Ch. 6 covers race, anthropology, and military reforms, while Ch. 7 traces how Spaniards borrowed...